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'Peter The Great' looks back

AUSTIN, Texas -- Peter Gardere isn't usually recognized for his work in the movies.

"Unless you really know my hands or my buttocks," Gardere said of his work as James Van Der Beek's football stand-in for the 1999 movie "Varsity Blues."

He is, however, well known for doing something no other Texas or Oklahoma quarterback has ever done in the history of the Red River Rivalry, which will be played for the 106th time on Oct. 8 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas -- something not even achieved by Longhorns quarterbacks Vince Young, Colt McCoy, James Street and Marty Akins, or Sooners quarterbacks Sam Bradford, Jason White, Steve Davis and Jimmy Harris.

Gardere was the starting quarterback for the Longhorns four times against the Sooners. He beat them every time.

From 1989 through 1992, not only did he win all four contests, but each time Texas went in unranked against Oklahoma teams ranked No. 15, No. 4, No. 6, and No. 16, respectively.

"It's great to be recognized in any way," he said. "But especially by beating OU."

For a player whose father and grandfather both played football at Texas, there might not be a better way to go down in college football history.

But despite the 4-0 record, Gardere is quick to credit the Longhorns defense. Three of the wins came by a combined eight points.

"I get the credit because I was taking the snaps," he said. "But the defenses and special teams we had played such critical roles in the wins. I think my senior year was the only one we won by any great margin [10 points]. I give all the credit to the defense. They kept us in the games and really won a lot of them for us."

But Gardere didn't earn the nickname "Peter the Great" for simply being a game manager in Dallas. He led Texas to back-to-back fourth quarter comebacks in his redshirt freshmen and sophomore seasons.

In 1989, Texas built a 21-7 halftime lead, only to see Oklahoma turn it into a 24-21 advantage by the fourth quarter. The Longhorns began their final drive from their own 34 with 3:42 left.

Gardere, then a redshirt freshman, moved Texas to the OU 25 with just over two minutes left. Then, with 1:33 to play, he found Johnny Walker at the goal line for the game-winning 25-yard touchdown.

"I didn't know what to expect," Gardere said of his first game against OU. "It was one of my first games to really start. I started the game against Rice right before that. But I had always heard about this game and that they were favored above us at that time."

Against Rice, Gardere ran for a 4-yard touchdown with 4:05 left to lead Texas to a 31-30 win.

In 1990 against Texas, the task was a little more daunting. The Longhorns took over at their own 9-yard line with 7:12 left and trailing 13-7. They had barely more than 100 yards of total offense to that point.

Texas managed to work its way deep into Oklahoma territory behind freshman running back Butch Hadnot, but faced a fourth-and-7 with two minutes left. The Longhorns called a timeout, and Gardere had a feeling tight end Keith Cash would be open.

"It was a dig route," Gardere said. "We had two receivers on one side coming across and then a post route on the back side. Once I saw the coverage, I knew Keith was going to come open because the previous year they blitzed us when I hit Johnny on a blitz route. We talked about it in the timeout. We thought we knew what they were going to do. We didn't think they were going to blitz."

Gardere thought right. Oklahoma stayed back and Gardere hit an open Cash underneath for the score.

The Sooners nearly rallied back by moving the ball to the Texas 29, but kicker R.D. Lashar's 46-yard field goal attempt missed wide left as time expired.

By the time Gardere was a senior, two years and two wins over the Sooners later, he had the Oklahoma fans chanting for him to graduate.

"I wouldn't say I remember it like it was yesterday," Gardere said. "I just turned 42, so it's been a while. But I just got chills thinking about it."

William Wilkerson covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation.com

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